Friday, February 20, 2009

Endangered Olive Ridley Turtles

On the eastern shore of India, along the Orissa coast, the endangered Olive Ridley sea turtle is facing yet another challenge to its survival. Plans are currently underway to construct a massive deep water port at the mouth of the Dhamra River, just north of the Gahirmatha Marine Sanctuary - the largest of only three nesting sites for the Olive Ridley in the world. Every winter, more than half a million of these endangered turtles mate in the shallow, calm ocean waters, then the females journey ashore for the arribada or “mass nesting.” For the first time, in 2008 there was no arribada on the Orissa beach.

In addition to the ongoing threats these turtles face from trawlers, gill netting and environmental factors such as global warming, the construction of the port will introduce numerous new stresses. Increased shipping traffic will deter the turtles from coming in from the sea to mate and nest; dredging, oil spills and chemical leaks with add deadly pollutants to the ocean waters; and artificial lighting will confuse the instinctual movements of both adults and hatchlings.

The Olive Ridley’s will not be able to adapt to these new threats quickly enough to shift the arribada to a safer and more suitable location, however the location of the port can.

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